Monday, November 05, 2007

Quick Conference Thoughts

1) The next time you hear Sparky the Sportscaster talk trash about the Big XII North as not being competitive with the South, mention this: so far this year the record between the two divisions is a level 8-8, with Kansas-Oklahoma State and Missouri-A&M remaining (and both North teams should be favored). The North isn't bad. It's more that the teams most preseason prognosticators chose to win the division (Nebraska, mainly) aren't the good teams (Missouri, Kansas), and the teams that were bad or mediocre the last few years (Colorado, Kansas State) are capable of beating a lot of South teams.

2) Currently there are 49 teams bowl eligible (6 wins). Right now the University of Georgia has 1 out-of-conference win against a bowl eligible team (Troy). Florida, Alabama, Arkansas and LSU all also have an out-of-conference win against a bowl eligible team. 5 Pac-10 teams (Cal, Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA, Washington) have an OOC win against a bowl eligible team. 5 ACC teams (FSU, NC State, Miami, UVA, VT) also have an OOC win against a bowl eligible team. 5 Big XII teams (Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, A&M) also have an OOC win against a bowl eligible team. 3 of the 8 Big East teams (Cincy, USF, WVU) have an OOC win against a bowl eligible team. That's 23 teams in BCS conferences (out of 54 total, 43%). In non BCS conferences, C-USA has two teams (Tulsa, UTEP) with OOC wins against bowl eligible teams. Navy has a win against a bowl eligible team. In the MWC, Wyoming has a win against a bowl eligible team. What's the big deal about that?

Each of those 27 teams, individually, has more wins over bowl eligible nonconference opponents, than the ENTIRE Big Ten put together. And I'm not talking just nonconference opponents in BCS conferences. Any conference. The Big Ten, as of right now, does not have a single win in a nonconference game against a team currently bowl eligible. The best nonconference wins for the entire conference right now?

Michigan State over 5-4 Bowling Green
Northwestern over 5-4 Nevada
Purdue over 5-4 Central Michigan

That's it. No wins over any BCS conference teams above .500. No wins against the 42 teams outside the Big Ten that are currently bowl eligible.

But fear not, Big Ten fans. Tomorrow night Central Michigan can get eligible with a win over Western Michigan.

For the rest of you, when looking at the Big Ten, think of a walled community. Maybe everyone inside the community is very strong and very smart because of the great talent of the others within the community. Maybe everyone inside the community is incredibly weak because of the lack of talent of the others within the community. Either way, if you are relying on intra-conference games to boost Big Ten teams in your rankings, you may be using flawed reasoning and incomplete data.

3) And speaking of the Central Michigan Chippewas, a win tomorrow night over Western Michigan not only gets them bowl eligible, but it also clinches a return trip to the MAC Championship game. CMU would get to 5-0 in conference with 2 to play and a head-to-head tiebreaker on the only team that could also get to 5-2 (Ball State).

4) Let's do another quick rundown of who is in control of their own destiny again...

ACC Atlantic - Boston College and Clemson.
ACC Coastal - UVA and Virginia Tech.

Last Saturday, Bobby Bowden did a huge favor for his son by beating the Eagles.

Big XII North - Missouri and Kansas.
Big XII South - Oklahoma (though Oklahoma State could control their destiny, depending on a tiebreaker I'm too lazy to research).

OSU needs to win out and win a tiebreaker in a 3-way with Texas and Oklahoma.

Big East - UConn and West Virginia

Big Ten - Ohio State and Michigan

C-USA East - East Carolina
C-USA West - Houston and Tulsa

The west is basically decided this Saturday (though technically Rice is still alive with a Tulsa win).

MAC East - Miami (OH)
MAC West - Central Michigan

Both teams clinch with their next win.

MWC - BYU

Pac-10 - Oregon and UCLA.

Yes, the UCLA team that has lost to 2 of the worst 4 teams in the conference and gave Notre Dame their only win of the season can make the Rose bowl by winning out against the three best teams in the conference.

Sun Belt - Troy and Florida Atlantic


SEC East - Tennessee
SEC West - LSU

WAC - Hawaii and Boise State

5) Now let's look at what teams are eliminated from the conference titles:

ACC Atlantic - Maryland, FSU, NC State
ACC Coastal - Duke, Georgia Tech, UNC

Miami is eliminated with a VT win this weekend. The loser of Wake/Clemson is eliminated this weekend.

Big XII North - Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa State
Big XII South - Baylor

Kansas State is all but eliminated. Baylor needs to upset Oklahoma for Texas Tech and A&M to have any real chance.

Big East - I don't think anyone is technically eliminated yet.

A win by UConn this weekend eliminates Syracuse, former #2 USF and Rutgers.

Big Ten - Illinois, Penn State, Purdue, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Northwestern, Minnesota, Iowa.

The nation's most boring conference title chase! Either Michigan or Ohio State will have 7 conference wins, so everyone else is eliminated.

C-USA East - UAB and Marshall.
C-USA West - SMU, Tulane, UTEP.

Two weeks ago, when I did the first set of destiny controllers, UAB was one of them. In two weeks they went from controlling their own destiny to eliminated. UTEP is technically ahead of Rice in the standings, but Rice could still be in a tiebreaker, while UTEP cannot win one.

MAC East - Kent is definitely eliminated. I don't know about anyone else - see below.
MAC West - NIU.

This conference is confusing as hell. In the East Miami only plays 7 conference games, but everyone else plays 8? How will that work? In the West, it's all moot tomorrow night with a CMU win.

MWC - TCU, Wyoming, UNLV and Colorado State

Air Force has eliminated all of them, and they aren't even in the driver's seat.

Pac-10 - Stanford, Washington, Washington State

Lots of tiebreaker possibilities.

Sun Belt - Louisiana-Monroe, Louisiana-Lafayette, Arkansas State, North Texas, Florida International.

Big Ten south, because it's nearly all over.

SEC East - Nobody is eliminated (though Vandy and USC aren't in good shape in tiebreakers).
SEC West - Ole Miss.

It'll take a miracle for some of those teams to win a tiebreaker (Miss State, Vandy), but technically they haven't been completely eliminated.

WAC - Louisiana Tech, San Jose State, New Mexico State, Utah State, Idaho.

Nevada is a ridiculous stretch and Fresno State needs to beat Hawaii to have a chance.

6) Some bloggers agreed before the season not to get involved in "the conference wars". I think that "SEC rulz, Big Ten sux" is stupid, but I also don't think any writer should censor him or herself from writing analysis that happens to point out that one conference has less to show for than another. Since conference schedules comprise the vast majority of most teams' seasons, the comparative strengths of conferences is directly related to the comparative strengths of individual teams. If someone thinks Michigan is great because of their wins against Big Ten opponents, it's completely relevant to question whether they deserve a lot of credit for any of those wins. If someone thinks LSU is great because of a perceived impossible SEC slate, it's completely relevant to question whether the SEC is all that great. And further, it's perfectly acceptable to respond to individuals who say, even crudely, that a particular conference "sucks" by responding with pointed analysis, and a preseason commitment not to engage in "conference wars" shouldn't be a suicide pact with someone else willing to degrade your teams. Which is to say that more will be forthcoming.

3 comments:

peacedog said...

1. Isn't this also anotehr form of narrative at work - historical? The North has done so little in the past 5 years, that everyone assumes they just suck. And will continue to suck.

Which is silly, but there you go.

2. I want to point out that Big 10 teams - well, some of them anyway - at least scheduled some good OOC opponents who have proven bowl eligible. They just can't beat them this year.

I do agree, though, that a response to conference criticism is not in and of itself "conference wars" commentary.

Solon said...

L.D., I believe the respective divisional champions in the MAC this season are being decided solely by in-division records. This would explain Miami playing more games than anyone else.

I'm guessing they couldn't get everything together after adding Temple so late, that's why they are doing it this way.

LD said...

I remember reading something about the MAC having an odd schedule this year because a couple of schools would have lost payout games if they had to play 8 conference games rather than 7, or something like that. I think it had to do with $$$.

It doesn't really matter (as Miami will likely clinch on the 14th), but it looks strange from just looking at the standings.